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Blue Monday – Mental Health in 2021

Colourful Hands
Stressed Employee
20 January 2021 | Updated 12 January 2024

Blue Monday is the third Monday of January, on which Sky Travel calculates to be an annual low point for mental health on average. Due to the unique circumstances presented by the last year, the latest HSE figures showing mental health issues at work are on the rise and with coronavirus exacerbating the issue, there is cause for a re-consideration on addressing depression post-festive season compounded by poor weather and stretched finances.

In January 2020 we published an article with thoughts on key principles for being attentive to the emotional needs of staff from Sally Orton, HR Manager at Plastic Surgeon, the UK’s largest surface repair specialist. She could not have foreseen the unique challenges the year would bring, and in the article's wake we endeavoured to discuss many of these in relation to the mental wellbeing of staff and customers as business adapted and evolved. In 2021, CHAS are urging their industry and others to consider everyone's health moving forwards, and make use of resources like the ones we reference, and their supported charity the Lighthouse Club.


A Different Christmas 


For many, even some that don’t celebrate the holiday, Christmas is a time for families to come together physically to celebrate in a way that wasn’t possible on the most recent occasion, with different governments across the world releasing precautionary guidance. We also predicted the way that our places of work would get together – having hoped that socially distanced meals might be on the agenda as well as the virtual alternative.

As a result of this, many people may be beginning 2021 feeling more isolated than usual. However, 2021 brings light and prospects. With the roll out of the vaccine through three confirmed pharmaceutical companies, a return to an upgraded operation of businesses bolstered by the lessons of the pandemic is very much on the horizon. Technological progress has served and shocked, as if often the case in times of crisis. Environmental consideration and general CSR has seen commitment and stellar role modelling. Many people have found increased levels of independence and renewed value by way of activity contrast or investing time in areas of their professional and personal lives, that they had not the time to achieve before.

That said, we must still prioritise the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us for the pandemic’s home straight – beginning a new year under the same cloud is demotivating for some. Aside from empowering solo, non-social value, communities have come together to support those in need with the economic complications of coronavirus and it is important to sustain that cooperation in 2021.


Home Workers and Hybrid Teams


Over a third of home workers feel disconnected to their organisation when working from home and a further 31 per cent feel disconnected to their colleagues, according to Leesman data.

With so much of the digitally based workforce now forgoing communal offices, it can be more difficult to encourage team spirit and top up the morale that filters into other corners of our general content in life. Where staff are split between offices and their own homes, we took a look at ways to help ensure equity in these new models.

In March 2020, the HSE updated its Protecting Lone Workers: How to Manage the Risks of Working Alone guidance document, which advises employers and employees on the factors that need to be considered when assessing and managing the risks to lone workers’ health, safety and wellbeing. SOCOTEC, a UK provider of testing, inspection and compliance services provided some extra advice for employers on how they could best implement this.

It’s important to remember that on top of the stress involved in changing methods of operation, navigating the deaths of family and friends is a natural but difficult part of continuing to work during the pandemic, and requires specific care from HR and management. Rebecca Mian, Head of HR at not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health, shared her advice on employer best practice for National Grief Awareness Day on 3 December 2020. Benenden Health have been vocal throughout the pandemic in offering support and guidance, such as offering five key ways in which employers can support their staff during lockdown generally.


Key and Essential Workers


For the people still working on the front line during the third lockdown, that have likely been working through the others also, there are extra pressures on anxiety and stress. However, the necessity and responsibility for managers to monitor and check in with their employees is the same as it is virtually. It’s vital that employers keep an eye out for signs of burnout, as that undesirable result can affect the safety of your team directly and by association. 

This includes types of work that continue during lockdown but are not subject to key worker government benefits, such as cleaners. Throughout the last year, the British Cleaning Council (BCC) have campaigned for the rights of cleaners that maintain the hygiene standards so crucial in fighting Covid-19. In March it was discussed that they lacked access to NHS testing, and they have not been prioritised for the vaccine programme. This may put them under extra stress, as they are not entitled to the same childcare provisions, and employers must consider and communicate with their staff to find out whether they therefore require furlough or support in another way.


Advice from CHAS


CHAS, the supply chain risk management expert, is urging construction companies to use Blue Monday 2021 as an opportunity to take positive action around mental health, including taking advantage of free resources such as the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity’s (Lighthouse Club) mental health and wellbeing training and their Helpline App. 

CHAS is using the day to raise awareness of the availability of free resources to help construction businesses and workers take positive action around the awareness and management of mental health. The Lighthouse Club, which provides mental, physical and financial wellbeing support to the construction community, has several free resources including a free helpline, free training programmes and a free app, described as the ultimate self-help tool in the palm of your hand. 


Mental Health in Construction


40 per cent of employees in the construction and engineering sector took time off work due to poor mental health in 2019, compared to 35 per cent across all sectors, with workers absent for between two and five days on average, costing UK businesses an estimated 40 million individual days of work across all sectors.

This evidence backs concerns raised in June of this year. President of the BCIA Terry Sharp noted that there is still the stereo typical macho image in the construction scene, especially amongst site workers where strength and suitability for the role are unhealthily linked with masculinity. In the following focus for International Men’s Day, we took a look at how this patriarchal imbalance is negative for people that associate with any gender, but also at positive male role models and what can be done to progress equality in the workplace.

The Lighthouse Club


CHAS has pledged an annual donation through the Lighthouse Club’s Company Supporter programme for several years and donates £1 for every satisfaction survey that a contractor completes. In addition, in 2021 CHAS will be highlighting the Lighthouse Club to its 30,000 contractors and 2,000 clients in every monthly newsletter and on the My Contractor Portal as a reminder that the charity is there whenever construction workers need them. 

Sarah Still, Marketing Communications Manager at CHAS comments: “The work of the Lighthouse Club is so important and like so many other charities at a time when their work is needed funding is squeezed. We have supported them for several years, during which time their work has touched many people’s lives and helped numerous construction workers and their families. 

“When we heard that they had lost £750,000 in 2020 due to the cancellation of all its events and organisations being unable to hold planned ‘Lighthouse Days’ we wanted to help ensure they could keep shining their light brightly even in these difficult times. In 2021 we will continue our financial support for the Lighthouse Club and we have also pledged to help them raise awareness of the essential work they do and the resources they provide.” 

Bill Hill, CEO of the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity adds: “We are delighted to be partnering with CHAS to ensure that their members can access all the support they need and deserve, whether that’s support with mental, physical or financial wellbeing. As well as helping us spread the word they are also one of our valued Company Supporters who pledge an annual donation to ensure that we have predictable and sustainable income going forward. Thank you so much to everyone at CHAS for making sure that we achieve our mission of ensuring that no construction worker or their family is alone in a crisis.” 

Picture: the first graphic shows a few colourful hands and arms, the second shows an employee stressed out with two other employees.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 20 January 2021


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